Women of the Vega
Gender, Memory, and Work in the Central Valley of Santiago
Book design and compilation
Mujeres de la Vega is a book that explores the working lives of women in the Central Valley in Santiago, Chile, also referred to as the 'Fertile Valley’. The book is based on the results of a study conducted between August 2010 and January 2011 in Central Santiago Vega of the working practices of women in the Central Valley, and their role in the society and economy of the region. The title, ‘Mujeres de la Vega’, translates to 'Women of the Fertile Valley'. The research and publication of this book was made possible by funds provided by the National Council for Culture and the Arts through the Fondart Regional Contest 2010. Our role was to design the book and its interior contents in a way that authentically told the stories of these women and conveyed the vibrant and unique culture they are part of.
We wanted the book to convey the the rich heritage of the Vega in all possible dimensions, and so we invited Carlo Fazio, an artist local to the area, to do the illustrations for the book. The cover of the book is his artwork, and his illustrations are used throughout the book.
The book tells the life stories of 11 working women in the Central Valley, all of whom are in different lines of work, thus giving a representation of the very wide array of industries women in the region work in. These life histories contain the memory, experiences and the feelings of the people, preserving the richness of language and their historical depth.
Moreover, these life histories involve a societal dimension, because the trajectories of the lives of individuals relate to the social changes of the larger community. This book helps document the generation to generation transmission of knowledge, crafts, stories, and languages - elements that constitute the intangible heritage of the Central Vega, and indeed the city of Santiago.
"That's my life. I'm a fighter, working woman, that's me ..."
Evading, puddles, the occasional pit, cigarette butts, fruit peels batteries, passing the carts, shopping carts, show carts , pedestrians, aliens, tenants, copuchentos, hawkers, cats, dogs and some journalist; is that the way to walk the streets freely and is so varied that requires no special protocols such as occurs for example in a mall or shopping center.
From sunrise to sunset, with responsibilities in tow, maternal commitments, and dreams to realize spring hundreds of stories of the work of women. Sacrifices and benefits would be the key words to describe the trajectory of mothers, who without thinking of the risk to themselves, begin their work day with the sunrise and end it in darkness.
Regardless of the cold, heat, rain, wind or sun they are there, stoic and ready to face the vicissitudes of everyday life. They know that business -or work- is in charge of generating the necessary income for their families, that it allows them to afford the education of their children, pay bills, pay their rent, purchase medicine, food, and clothing; they feel that the responsibility for such work is in their own hands:
"I know that all work is difficult, but ours is more, because we do not have a Saturday or a Sunday, as is common for workers to share with their children. We work seven days a week, then we feel so much pain because we can not spend a Saturday or a Sunday with them because those are the best days for us. On Monday we could spend time with them because it's a slower day, but the children have their activities, school, and all that." -Susana
Being a woman is not an impediment - to the contrary: it is an incentive that urges them to continue to develop, to expand their capabilities and to share these achievements with their families:
"I am father and mother at the same time to my children, I raised my kids alone. Fought sick, sick I worked, I worked hard for my children to give them a good upbringing. That's my life. I'm a fighter, working woman, that's me." -Rosa H.
-Women of the Vega: gender, memory and work in Central Santiago Vega. Santiago, Chile, 2011
Santiago Library book launch
The book has been very well received and now is in its second edition.